Separated and Divorced Fathers
Profile of FIRA Partner Theo BoereThe Nanaimo Men’s Resource Centre is one of a number of Canadian grass-roots organizations set up to offer services for divorced and separated men. What sets this centre apart is that it has expanded beyond the issue of divorce to include other types of workshops for men, including some for fathers in intact families.
The Centre was started by Theo Boere, a retired former businessman, who found himself on an unanticipated career path after going through a difficult divorce. Boere is a community partner is FIRA's Separated and Divorced Fathers cluster, which is led by Dr. Edward Kruk
“I had been looking for services for men in my situation,” says the 56-year-old father of two, who now lives and works in Nanaimo, B.C., and. “Already having spent tens of thousands of dollars on lawyers and counsellors, I was looking for low or no-cost programs. I couldn’t’ find any so I started a support group for men going through divorce.”
One thing led to another and in October 2002, about a year and a half after the first support group, Theo established the Nanaimo Men’s Resource Centre in a heritage building which once housed the city’s courthouse and police station. At first, most of the centre’s services were related to divorce and some of those programs still run, such an evolved version of the original support group which centred on legal issues. “On the first and third Wednesday evenings of the month we have the support groups for men (and now women too) dealing with legal issues related to divorce,” says Boere. “The facilitators are lay people, but we often have volunteer lawyers and counsellors on hand for those who need them.” Individual counselling and presentations on specific divorce and family law related topics are also offered from time to time.
After a few years, Boere began to see the need to expand beyond the issue of divorce, and began offering offering a more diverse range of programs and workshops including men’s drumming circles, anger management for men and women, transformational breath workshops and a parenting curriculum from Australia called Triple P. More recently the centre has added more fatherhood programs that are not related to divorce, including a father’s prenatal course, offered in partnership with the Vancouver Island Health Authority, and an adapted version of Dad’s Make A Difference, a program which originated in San Angelo, Texas.
“I started to see that a lot of the issues we were dealing with could be prevented by helping fathers stay connected with their kids,” says Boere. “So I’m very exciting about Dads Make a Difference, in which older experienced dads mentor new younger dads.”
Dads Make a Difference is an adaptation of a program developed by psychologist Gardner Wiseheart, of Healthy Families of San Angelo. In the San Angelo program, young, at-risk fathers are contacted prenatally or just after their child is born and enrolled in a home-visiting program where fathering skills are taught in a one-on-one sessions. Other aspects of the program include mentoring, teaching couple relationship skills, and Daddy and Me Play Nights, where fathers are taught how to interact with their child via structured parent/child activities.
Boere was unable to get enough funding to staff the full, program, so he began with a scaled-down version centred around mentoring. Experienced and inexperienced fathers come together on Thursday evenings to share pizza and discuss everything from the challenges of being a new parent, to diapering and baby brain development. New fathers can also contact their “guide dad” by phone for support and information. “This is by far the most exciting project in my six years at the Centre,” says Boere. “We have volunteer dads saying they wish something like this had been available for them, and we have young dads (our target group is men aged 16 to 25) telling us that they had no idea that they could have such an important influence on their baby’s development.”
Boere hopes to be able to add more components to Dads Make a Difference in the future, if funding allows. “Funding has always been a challenge,” he says. “We patch together project monies from different sources and rely on volunteers . We have about 75 of them right now.” At times, including the first two years of the centre;s operation Boere has had to worke on an unwaged basis. But recently he’s been able to collect a salary for his work. “Until the federal and provincial governments put the importance of fathering on their radar screens, we are going to continue to struggle financially,” he observes. “But we’ll keep finding ways to help fathers stay connected with their children and look after their own well-being.”
Nanaimo Men’s Resource Centre has, at times, received funding from the federal government and BC provincial government, as well as the United Way, the Vancouver Foundation, the Queen Alexandra Foundation for Children, the Hamber Foundation, the Chris Spencer Foundation, the F.K. Morrow Foundation, and numerous local service organizations and private donors.
For more information:
Nanaimo Men’s Centre
418D Fitzwilliam St., Nanaimo, BC
Canada V9R 3A7
250.716.1551 Fax 250.716.1557